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In conversation with Third Space: on experimental music and strobing lights

The Melbourne/Naarm-based experimental-electronic artist recently played two sold-out solo shows at Phoenix Central Park.

As you step into the arena, a wooden structure greets you by descending stairs wrapping around the stage. This is Phoenix Central Park, a performance space in Chippendale where I saw the eclectic Melbourne/Naarm-based experimental-electronic artist Matt, better known as Third Space. Third Space has notably played Pitch Music Festival in Victoria multiple times, along with other noted Melbourne venues like the Abbotsford Convent, The Oratory and Magnet Studios. He also released his EP ‘Pattern of Spring’ in 2021 on Sydney-based label Pure Space. Matt was also FBi Radio’s independent artist of the week in June 2021 and reflects the wider continuum of Australian ambient and noise music, including Oren Ambarchi, Lawrence English and Justice Yeldham to name a few.

The complementary earplugs were much appreciated as I sat down and waited for the performance to begin. Third Space’s performance was an exceptionally unique audio-visual experience, with spinning, pulsating, and shifting coloured lights perfectly accentuating the wide array of sonic spaces travelled through. The experience ranged from airy ambient sounds to dancier drums and moments of dark fearful noise. However, as much as I may attempt to describe and explain the performance, the in-person experience, and the moments of bliss and wonder felt, it is difficult to fully grasp through written word alone. This is the case for almost all ambient, noise and other experimental music performances I have seen, difficult to understand until experienced by oneself, but something I implore all to see.

Following the culmination of strobing lights, explorative sonic landscapes and sensory wonder, I was lucky enough to interview Matt.

SP: What was it like performing in Phoenix Central Park compared to other spaces you have performed in, and how do different spaces impact how you perform?

TS: From an audio perspective it was one of the loudest spaces I have performed in, which was great. The scale and governance of it all was also amazing, for an artist as small as me to be playing 2 sold-out solo shows in a space as big and impressive as Phoenix is such a unique and special experience. More generally though, the main things that impact my performances are the time of the day, venue, and speakers, as the vibe of the room influences how I’ll play.

SP: What are the difficulties of the music you perform when compared to more conventional performances?

TS: I can’t really comment on performing more conventional performances but one of the biggest differences in the space is having a patient audience who is willing to just sit there and listen, as you don’t need to compete for an audiences’ attention as you do in a pub or other venues.

SP: I know you also have another project called Knotting, how does working with a vocalist impact your music?

TS: It’s amazing, Georgia, who I perform with, is extremely talented and understands the intricacies of melodies and harmonies, which I can’t really do myself as I have a percussion background. This opens a whole new space for experimentation in compositions, as we can focus on chordal and modal shifts, unlike in Third Space where sound design and percussion are the main avenues of experimentation. Also, in our work there’s a crossover between the human voice and technology by using computer software to stretch a voice to do something it can’t do organically. Georgia also stretches what she can sing physically, which really adds to the sound. Also using a vocalist creates a bit more familiarity with the audience, as synthesisers are more of an abstract area to experiment with than a voice, which allows me to exploit new compositions and atmospheres.

SP: How do you feel about the current state of experimental music in Australia? Is there anything you feel is missing?

TS: We have incredible venues and perfect patrons in Australia, who are respectful, patient and down to try new things. Obviously COVID has impacted a lot of things, but our domestic scene is so vibrant, and people are still excited to try new things and have fun on a night out. Honestly, the main thing that I wish we had would be better speaker systems, as they improve the experience for performances no matter what you are seeing. However, obviously it’s extremely expensive for venues to do so and there’s just not enough money in the industry to afford that. Beyond that I’d just say more support for artists you like! Buying records, merch and supporting artists directly on Bandcamp are great ways to show your support and help artists grow.

SP: Any final comments?

TS: Buy music, go to shows, support things you’re interested in, there’s a scene for everything. Experience music live, it’s the best way to see music and can’t be replicated in any other way.

You can find Third Space on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.